Are We Building One Another Up in Social Media?

I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed recently and realized that I know very little about the people I’m friends with in social media. I don’t seek out Facebook friends I haven’t known personally, but since I’m a writer and connected to other writers, I will get a few new friend requests a week from fellow Catholics. I don’t mind and I’ve added quite a few of these people, but I’m also selective since I actually share posts about my life, my family, and my daughter.

The original idea behind websites like Facebook or the now defunct MySpace, was the opportunity to connect with other people. To catch up with long lost friends from decades prior. Since I served in the military, I literally know people who live across the globe, so it has been nice to see what people are up to these days decades later.

The problem I now see is that rather than social media being a place to connect with others, it’s devolved into a constant stream of political posts. Our identity and our lives are not predominately political, regardless of what our culture tells us. Politics play an essential role in promoting the common good and we should stay informed and work to overcome injustice, but it in no way makes up the vast majority of our lives unless we actually work in politics.

My Facebook newsfeed is a war of constant opposing political posts. I myself have joined the American Solidarity Party and I rarely post anything political anymore. I use to, all of the time, and I lost friends for it. I understand why now. It’s not so much that we had differing views. It’s the fact that 10 years ago when I worked in politics, it was all I posted. All I would share is my political ideology, and I was an ideologue.

A lot of people who send me friend requests–like me years ago–largely only posts political posts. I must admit I groan a little bit. When a new outrage wagon comes rolling into town, my newsfeed explodes and I usually have to walk away until it’s gone. It makes social media miserable to only see my friends and family posting their competing narratives while those of us who tend to take a more middle-of-the-road approach are attacked from both sides. Regardless of what folks claim, there is no political party in the U.S. that conforms fully to Catholic Social Teaching. That means there’s no Catholic party. People are free to argue conscience and their views, but no one can claim their party is Catholic, even if abortion is the supreme human rights issue of our day.

I enjoy discussing current events and many of my posts are related to what is going on in the Church, but I also post a lot of satire because we need more levity in a polarized digital age. More than anything, I try to share what is going on in my life both in the day-to-day and spiritually. I’m a Catholic writer, so the spiritual life is the most important thing to me other than my family. I share the good and the bad.

Since most of my Facebook friends focus solely on politics or current events, I know absolutely nothing about their lives. All I know is what political party they are affiliated with. It seems to me that this flies in the face of the whole point of connecting with other people. Shared interests are one thing, but complete tunnel vision and focus on one topic makes it very difficult to connect with other people on anything other than a superficial level. Often we use social media to be a reflection of our own political beliefs, rather than using it to learn more about other people or to connect with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I always find it interesting when someone finally posts a personal post, usually a prayer request, and they put in “I rarely do this, but I need prayers.” Since when is requesting prayers from the Mystical Body supposed to be rare? Why do we view prayer as a burden? It’s the most real thing that a person may post. It’s a reminder that there is a living, breathing person made imago Dei behind the posts. Why should relying on one another be rare? Why does social media need to be a constant stream of current affairs and political fights? It’s a tool that can be used for so much good.

When I started sharing my family’s struggles with others and requesting prayers things changed for us. I’m convinced the prayers of my friends in social media, my parish, and elsewhere were the reason my husband was diagnosed quickly and he’s still here. We are the Mystical Body. We are meant to lift one another up.

Why is asking for prayers considered shameful? In our weakness we are made strong according to St. Paul. Showing that we are human and struggling with the afflictions of this life is a witness to the need for Christ and one another. It shouldn’t be a source of embarrassment or seen as a burden to others. We can’t go it alone. That’s one of the major lessons of the spiritual life. I’d rather know more about what is going on in someone’s life than read 15 political posts from them.

Part of the reason we are becoming more divided and polarized is because we no longer view social media as a place to connect with others. Instead, it’s becoming our own individual sounding board where we can throw out our political beliefs at high speed. Have any of us changed someone’s mind through all of these posts? I never have. I never did back in the days when that was what I mainly posted.

There’s nothing wrong with sharing them and engaging in debate. My concern is simply that all I see are political posts. I know nothing about most of the people who have requested my friendship on social media. So I guess the question would be: why do you want to be friends with me on social media or anyone else for that matter? I ignore the vast majority of political posts in my newsfeed and I head straight for theology, Church news, the outdoors, or satire. Are we building community or are we simply adding to a list? It’s worth considering. And for the record, I’m happy to pray for you anytime.

Featured image taken from Wiki Commons.

God Is In The Details: My Secondary Vocation to Spiritual Motherhood

It’s amazing how the smallest of details are a part of God’s plan for our lives. We often ignore the minutiae in the busyness of our lives, but God is there working on our salvation in what appears to simply be a day on the calendar. We can see it in the lives of the saints who die on significant feast days or many died at the age of 33. I have come to see in my own spiritual life that certain feast days are filled with greater graces and often I will be asked to do something on one of those days that I wouldn’t do on any other day. Marian feast days and Holy Week are the greatest of these in my own life.

I’m starting to see these small details and how they weave into the very fabric of how Christ is leading me towards Him. I never paid attention before, largely because of my own self-absorption and partly because I didn’t consider how God is always working even when I don’t see it. I was born in Helena, MT and handed guardianship of three holy relics of the True Cross at 33 years of age. The holy relic that was the instrument of Our Lord’s death and our salvation found by *St. Helena* in the 4th century. I only drew the connection nearly 5 years later and it was like being struck by lightning.

On March 23, 2012, a Friday, I had my second miscarriage. A child I firmly believe to have been a son: Caleb Augustine. I have had the deepest longing in my heart to have a son to give to Our Lord in the priesthood. Since I can’t have anymore children, I was confused as to why this longing was so deeply imbedded within me. On March 23, 2018, a Friday, after a significant experience that happened to me during the Mass that dramatically changed my spiritual life, I was handed my secondary vocation of spiritual motherhood to priests. God only revealed the connection between these two dates to me this past weekend as we approach that anniversary this weekend. The realization has been nothing short of mind-blowing for me. God doesn’t miss any details. The same priest was even with me on both days at two different parishes six years apart.

On the painful anniversary of losing my first son–I believe I lost my second son on August 8, 2016 on the feast of St. Dominic when we had already named him for a Dominican as Andrew Thomas (see those small details are actually big ones!)–six years to the day, God handed me the secondary vocation of being a spiritual mother to His priests in a time of crisis, scandal, pain, and confusion. To pray and sacrifice for them in love, as so many others have done before me, including one of my closest friends in the Communion of Saints: St. Therese of Lisieux. God is working in every area of our lives every single day.

I miss my babies, but God has already blessed me a great deal through this secondary vocation. As I told the ladies last weekend at the retreat when I discussed Mary and Spiritual Motherhood, being a spiritual mother comes with great joys and sorrows, just like being a biological/adoptive mother. It requires sacrifice and since it’s a vocation it is also a path to learning how to die to self in love. Spiritual motherhood comes from Our Lady who teaches us how to open our hearts up more expansively, even in the midst of grief. 

When I realized that I would not be able to have more children, I wondered in prayer if I’d ever experience that level of joy again as the day when I first held my daughter. So many of my friends are still being blessed with children and I am not. In my grief, I wasn’t sure. The answer is yes. Spiritual motherhood is yet another path to charity and it comes with incredible joy. In order to be able to open myself up to that joy God had to teach me how to let go of what I wanted, including my desire for more children. When I let go and gave everything back to God, just as Our Heavenly Mother did at the foot of the Cross, Christ was able to break open deeper wellsprings of charity within me that I didn’t even know existed. It’s hard to let go of what we want, but God’s ways are not our own and He is not to be outdone in generosity.